The Social Museum Collection

Pittsburgh Survey

Pittsburgh Survey

A groundbreaking sociological study of one of America’s largest and most industrialized cities, the Pittsburgh Survey (1907–8) sought to provide a model for how to implement lasting civic and industrial reform through political activism. The reform was to be built on the methodical investigation, scholarly analysis, and “diagnosis” of existing urban conditions. Funded by the Russell Sage Foundation and organized by the Charities Publication Committee under the direction of the journalist Paul Underwood Kellogg, the Pittsburgh Survey presented the findings of more than fifty social science researchers in six published volumes as well as in a wide variety of public education presentations and exhibits. The pioneering reform-minded photographer Lewis Wickes Hine was among those who provided evidence.

The Social Museum collection holds more than thirty original boards with enlarged Hine photographs from a Pittsburgh Survey display. A selection of them corresponds to Elizabeth Beardsley Butler’s study “The Stogy Industry” from the Pittsburgh Survey’s first volume, Women and the Trades. Escalating demand by industrial laborers for what was called the “workman’s cheap smoke” fed the stogie trade, which in Pittsburgh by 1907 employed more than twenty-six hundred poor immigrant women, often working in repugnant conditions in the city’s 32 factories and 203 sweatshops. Outnumbering men in the industry three to one, women generally occupied such unskilled tasks as stripping, rolling, and bunching. Middle-class anxiety about the social impact of the changing industrial order permeated the Pittsburgh Survey. The emphasis on speed and output over craftsmanship, Butler argued, for example, caused the “nervous exhaustion” and “social waste” of young women and what she described as the interconnected spread of “unfit homes and undervitalized children” [1].


1. Elizabeth Beardsley Butler, Women and the Trades: Pittsburgh, 1907–1908 (New York: Charities Publication Committee, 1909), 96–97.